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Rail spur key to Polo’s economic development

A rail spur to a Polo grain terminal could be one of the keys to the community’s economic growth.

Greg Cross, representing the Polo Economic Development Corp., told the Polo City Council July 3 that the two-mile spur from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad to the Bocker Ruff grain terminal could entice other industries to locate nearby.

Cross invited the council to join forces with Ogle County and other local municipalities to promote economic development.

He asked the council to consider spending $200 to $400 per month to join in an economic development services contract with Hopkins-Manheim Solutions, Inc.

The county board hired the firm June 20 to map a plan for the county and its municipalities at a maximum cost of $4,000 per month.

The terms of the contract require that at least three municipalities also join to share the cost and benefits.

If only three join, Cross said, the cost for each will be $400 per month, but that would decrease if more municipalities participate.

Hopkins-Manheim Solutions will advise local officials how to put plans in place to attract industries.

So far Stillman Valley has approved the plan, but Cross said Mt. Morris, Oregon, Davis Junction, Byron, and Creston are also interested.

Once the municipalities are on board, he said, private businesses will be asked to participate.

The cost will be split 40-30-30 with the county paying 40 percent of the cost and municipalities and the private sector each paying 30 percent.

The council is expected to vote on the matter July 17.

Cross told the council that hiring the consultants fits in with ongoing efforts to attract industries and other businesses to Polo.

He said the area surrounding the rail spur would be desirable to be part of the Lee-Ogle Enterprise Zone, if affected property owners are winning to sell.

Access to the rail spur north of the city would be a strong incentive for industries to locate nearby, he said.

The Lee-Ogle Enterprise Zone was approved by the state effective Jan. 1. The previous zone was established in 1986 and was due to expire at the end of this year.

It includes 15 square miles, mainly in the Rochelle and Dixon areas, but some acres are not spoken for and could be claimed by other communities within the two counties.

Cross urged the council to move quickly because other communities are already working on projects that may qualify to be part the Enterprise Zone.

An Enterprise Zone offers opportunities for grants and tax benefits for the businesses that locate within it.

Tax benefits include abatement of sales tax during construction and property tax abatement for a specified length of time.

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